As YPN’s first new executive director in 18 years, Alejandro Pino said he views his position as an honor.
“It’s a powerful position to be in, to be able to help those in need and to really build the trust that folks need in order to be successful,” Pino, 41, said. “It’s something special because we want all families of different socioeconomic backgrounds to know there’s an organization here for them, and to be able to provide the resources for them to succeed. We want people to be happy, joyful.”
Pino was hired this month to lead the Cedar Rapids nonprofit, which provides services for young parents and families.
He succeeds Brian Stutzman, the nonprofit’s longtime leader, who died in July.
Pino, who begins his new role Oct. 22, previously has worked as director of intercultural programs at Loras College in Dubuque and, most recently, at a staffing agency in Cedar Rapids. Born in Peru, he first moved to Cedar Rapids when he was 10.
He said he looks forward to building trust with Cedar Rapids’ diverse young families, YPN staff and the community.
Q: What made you decide to apply to the YPN?
A: It was a very reflective choice and process for me. I knew Brian (Stutzman) really well, who passed suddenly and unexpectedly. I have always had a very, very strong passion for helping people — I know that’s kind of cliche, but it really has encapsulated really all the professional jobs that I’ve had. ... This position kind of encapsulates all of that, not only the helping people, but also community outreach has always been important to me, and volunteering has always been important to me.
I’ve always had a very strong admiration for YPN as an organization and also for its board. What really solidified the choice for me was seeing how the board reacted and supported the staff right after Brian’s passing. They were incredibly supportive, and it just impressed me. That made me tell myself, this organization is really, truly a treasure in the community.
Q: What experience have you had working with young parents?
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A: A lot of the families that I work with currently at my position (at Premier Staffing Inc.) utilize YPN services too, so there’s been a lot of overlap, which has been interesting. Particularly in the immigrant community, there’s quite a large overlap there too. And with my wife’s (Autumn Pino) position too, it’s kind of a trifecta because a lot of the families we work with are her families, too, at Roosevelt (Middle School).
Q: What are the main issues you see facing young parents in our area?
A: When you look at society, one of the most important components is the family unit. When you see strong families, you see a strong community. So all families — regardless of background or ability or financial ability or socioeconomic background — should have the resources that they need to be successful. ... We want to see families completely transition, young families, to transition into success. That means we as a community, not only YPN but us as a community of Cedar Rapids, have to come together to offer those resources to those young families and children. Lining them up with resources is always a challenge, making sure that awareness is out there, making sure they know I can go there for different resources.
I think there’s also a need to build people up. ... We as a community here in Cedar Rapids need to uplift each other. That’s one of the ways YPN plays a critical role in that uplifting, but in a challenging way — we don’t just provide services, we also challenge our clients to more. To do more, to learn more, to challenge themselves. But we’re always there to lend a hand in that process.
Q: What challenges do you anticipate as you address those issues?
A: In the nonprofit world, any leader will tell you that resources (and) fundraising is always critical. You want to make sure that the nonprofit is in good financial standing in order to provide those resources.
For young parents, you have to connect on a deep level. They have to be able to trust you. ... Relationship-building is one of the first things I’ll do when I take my position, not only with the people we serve but also with our community partners, staff, board, everybody else we’re connected with.
Q: Are there new funding sources you’re exploring?
A: The one thing we’re exploring is somehow doing fee-based programming somehow, but we have to do that carefully because we don’t want it to impact families, but more and more nonprofits in order to diversify their revenue streams have to offer something that would help with that and offset some of the other sources (of funding), like the United Way. But you have to do it carefully because you really don’t want it to impact who you are as an organization.
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